Saturday, July 26, 2008


Harshavardhana was an Indian emperor who belonged to Pushibhukti family. He was born around 580 AD and is believed to be the son of Prabhakar Vardhan, the founder of Vardhan Dynasty. At the height of his glory his kingdom spanned the Punjab, Bengal, Orissa and the entire Indo-Gangetic plain north of the Narmada river. He ascended the throne after his elder brother Rajya Vardhana got murdered by Sasanka, King of Gauda. At this time he was just 16 years of age. After his accession to the throne he merged the two kingdoms of Thanesar and Kannauj and shifted his capital to Kannauj. Harsha was a secular ruler and respected all the religions and faiths. In his early life he used to be a sun-worshipper but later he became the follower of Shaivism and Buddhism. According to the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang, who visited the kingdom of Harsha in 636 AD, Harsha built many Buddhist Stupas. He was also a great patron of the Nalanda University. He was the first to establish the Sino-Indian diplomatic relationships. He was a good scholar and a noted author. He wrote three plays in Sanskrit namely Ratnavali, Priyadarsika and Nagananda. We can find well-documented record of his reign in the work of his court poet Banabhatta. Bana wrote Harsha Charita, the first historical poetic work in Sanskrit language. Work of the Chinese traveler, Xuanzang also provides a deep insight into the life during Harshavardhana's rule. He ruled India for almost forty years, and died in 647 AD, leaving behind no heir to the throne. After his death his empire disintegrated.


Samudragupta (reigned 335-380) is the second ruler of the Gupta Dynasty, who ushered in the Golden Age in India. He was a benevolent ruler, a great warrior and a patron of arts. Samudragupta, son of Chandragupta, was perhaps the greatest king of Gupta dynasty. His name appears in the Javanese text `Tantrikamandaka'. But the most detailed and authentic record of his reign is preserved in the rock pillar of Allahabad, composed by Harisena, the court poet of Samudragupta. Chandragupta, a Magadha raja married a Lichhavi princess, Kumardevi which enabled for him to gain a hold over the Ganges river- the main source of north Indian commerce. He ruled for about ten years in the north-central India. After his death his son, Samudragupta started to rule the kingdom and did not rest until he conquered almost the whole of India. His reigning period may be described as a vast military campaign. To begin with he attacked the neighboring kingdoms of Shichchhatra (Rohilkhand) and Padmavati (in Central India). He conquered the whole of Bengal, some Kingdoms in Nepal and he made Assam pay him tribute. He absorbed some Tribal states like the Malvas, the Yaudheyas, the Arjunayanas, the Abhiras and the Maduras. The later Kushanas and the Sakas paid him tribute. Towards south, along the coast of Bay of Bengal he proceeded with great vigor and defeated Pithapuram's Mahendragiri, Kanchi's Vishnugupta, Mantaraja of Kurala, Mahendra of Khosla and many more till he reached the river Krishna. Samudragupta extended his Kingdom in the west over Khandesh and Palaghat. However he preferred to maintain friendly terms with Vatakata in Central India. He performed Aashvamadha Yajna (Horse Sacrifice) after winning every big battle. Samudragupta's territories extended from the Himalayas in the north to the river Narbada in the south and from the Brahamaputra River in the east to the Yamuna River in the west. His greatest achievement can be described as the political unification of most of the India or Aryavarta into a formidable power. He assumed the title of Maharajadhiraja (The King of the Kings). Most certainly, Samudragupta is the father of Gupta monetary system. He started minting seven different types of coins. They are known as the Standard Type, the Archer Type, the Battle Axe Type, the Aashvamedha Type, the Tiger Slayer Type, the King and Queen Type and the Lyrist Type. They exhibit a fine quality of technical and sculptural finesse. This great warrior had a benevolent heart. He showed great nobility towards all those kings who were defeated. He gave various tribal states autonomy under his protection. His court was full of Poets and Scholars. He had a keen interest in music and was probably an accomplished Lyrist (a kind of Musical Instrument). Samudragupta was succeeded by his son Chandragupta II, also known as Vikramadiyta (380-413A.D.). The prosperity of the Gupta Dynasty continued to flourish under his rule.


Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, the son of Carlo and Letizia Bonaparte. Through his military exploits and his ruthless efficiency, Napoleon rose from obscurity to become Napoleon I, Empereur des Francais (Emperor of the French). He is both a historical figure and a legend—and it is sometimes difficult to separate the two. The events of his life fired the imaginations of great writers, film makers, and playwrights whose works have done much to create the Napoleonic legend.]Napoleon decided on a military career when he was a child, winning a scholarship to a French military academy at age 14. His meteoric rise shocked not only France but all of Europe, and his military conquests threatened the stability of the world.Napoleon was one of the greatest military commanders in history. He has also been portrayed as a power hungry conqueror. Napoleon denied those accusations. He argued that he was building a federation of free peoples in a Europe united under a liberal government. But if this was his goal, he intended to achieve it by taking power in his own hands. However, in the states he created, Napoleon granted constitutions, introduced law codes, abolished feudalism, created efficient governments and fostered education, science, literature and the arts.Emperor Napoleon proved to be an excellent civil administrator. One of his greatest achievements was his supervision of the revision and collection of French law into codes. The new law codes—seven in number—incorporated some of the freedoms gained by the people of France during the French revolution, including religious toleration and the abolition of serfdom. The most famous of the codes, the Code Napoleon or Code Civil, still forms the basis of French civil law. Napoleon also centralized France's government by appointing prefects to administer regions called departments, into which France was divided.While Napoleon believed in government "for" the people, he rejected government "by" the people. His France was a police state with a vast network of secret police and spies. The police shut down plays containing any hint of disagreement or criticism of the government. The press was controlled by the state. It was impossible to express an opinion without Napoleon's approval.Napoleon's own opinion of his career is best stated in the following quotation:
“I closed the gulf of anarchy and brought order out of chaos. I rewarded merit regardless of birth or wealth, wherever I found it. I abolished feudalism and restored equality to all regardless of religion and before the law. I fought the decrepit monarchies of the Old Regime because the alternative was the destruction of all this. I purified the Revolution.”


Alexander fighting Persian king Darius III.


Akbar was only thirteen when his father died of an unfortunate accident in the palace at Delhi. In his haste to rush down the stairs to answer the call for prayer, Humayun slipped and fell to his death. This sudden turn of events left the newly reclaimed Mughal Empire in peril once again. Akbar, who was born during Humayun’s flight from Delhi after his loss to Sher Shah, was in Panjab at the time of his father’s demise. With no other claimants to the throne, Akbar was thrust into the forefront of an empire in jeopardy. Unlike his father and grandfather, Akbar was an Indian by birth. While his father was hiding in the Thar Desert, in a Rajput fort in Umarkot (now in Pakistan), under the protection of Hindus, Akbar was born to Hamida in October 1542. His education had not gone well both because of the stress of a family on the run as well as his inability to learn to read or write, surely because of dyslexia.
Akbar was lucky to have Bayram Khan as regent in those early teenage years. Under his tutelage the empire was protected form 1556 to 1560. After Humayun’s sudden death, while Akbar was still in Panjab, Hemu, a wretchedly puny but crafty man, quickly attacked Delhi and the Mughal force took flight. An unlikely adversary, Hemu, who was a chief minister of one of the Sur claimants, had to be driven from Delhi after a major victory in what was called the second battle of Panipat. Hemu riding on an elephant, the ‘Hawai’ (wind), took an arrow in his eye that pierced right through his head. Seeing their leader slump on his great beast the rest of the army scattered in confusion. Hemu was captured and beheaded in front of the young victor, Akbar. After this Delhi would not slip out of Mughal hands for another three centuries.
The loyal Bayram Khan was a Shia Muslim amongst the Sunnis. He fell victim to intrigue and betrayal and was provoked into revolting and then killed. Adham Khan, who is the son of Akbar’s erstwhile nurse stepped in and carried on the business of extending the empire and putting down the insurgency in the neighboring states. The legendary Baz Bahadur, who was the sultan at Malwa was defeated and his lover, the Rajput princess, whom the lovelorn Bahadur had serenaded, committed suicide by drinking poison, in the true Rajput tradition. Adham Khan, by now was corrupted by power and felt the wrath of the nineteen-year-old emperor and was flung headlong from the terrace to meet his maker.
Barely out of his teens, Akbar quickly consolidated power and centralized the administration. Ministers were dispensed with lest they grow ambitious and dissident commanders were dealt with swiftly. Unlike any other Muslim ruler in India, Akbar took keen interest in his subjects and Hindu ascetics, like jogis and sanyasis. He was most tolerant of all Mughal rulers and let his subjects practice their faiths without any fear of persecution. He also encouraged marriages between Hindu Rajputs and Muslims. His first and the most beloved wife (first of thirty-three wives) was the daughter of Kacchwaha Rajput raja of Amber (Kacchawahas built Jaipur later). Raja’s son and grandson became loyal lieutenants of Akbar and were treated as nobles. Rajasthan never again became a thorn on Akbar’s side as it had for all the previous Sultans and Emperors.
Akbar never discriminated between Muslims and Hindus and conferred nobility to many, with equal justice in mind. His only failure was one Udai singh of Mewar, whose son, a prisoner in Akbar’s court escaped and fled south. In 1567 Akbar himself marched south and participated in the siege of Chittor. Udai Singh and his son escaped but Akbar continued his siege and eventually occupied the fort. Udai Singh is the founder of the city of Udaipur with the lovely lake, where later, a Jagat Singh built the renowned palace on the lake. For Akbar defeating Chittor was a matter of honor (izzat) and this win effectively sealed his glory in the history of the Mughals. Historian Abu’l – Fazl in his Akbar-nama, recorded the events of Akbar’s rule.
Akbar also undertook the building of a new capital in Sikri (later called Fatehpur Sikri) and planned to move his capital from Agra to Sikri. Despite being married to many wives he was heirless and propitiated his respects to a member of the Chisti family called Shaikh Salim Chisti of Sikri. The Sufi holy man correctly predicted that the emperor would have three sons. The first male child was born to his Rajput wife and was named Salim (later Jahangir) in honor of Chisti. The fulfilled prophesy of Chisti of Sikri also had an important role in his folly of building a new capital in Fatehpur Sikri. After completing his father Humayun’s tomb, he undertook an ambitious plan to build an extravagant palace and other buildings in the middle of nowhere.
Akbar was a keen student of the various religions of India. Sufism flourished and the Bhakti cult as well as the Jain and Sikh followers of Guru Nanak fascinated Akbar. In his mind he formed an amalgam of various religions like Islam, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism. He even had Portuguese padres from Goa visit his court to give him a sermon on Christianity. He then sought a religion that encompassed the best elements of the various religions and proposed a new one called Din Ilahi or the Divine Faith. However, he did not vigorously promulgate his new religion and it never gained in popularity, as the tenets were not clearly spelled out. As expected he soon ran afoul with the ulema, who considered his actions blasphemous and a threat to Islam. His half brother Hakim, the governor of Kabul sent a fatwa enjoining all Muslims to revolt. With the help of his Hindu lieutenants Akbar was able to defeat Hakim in Lahore and then made a triumphant entrance into Kabul in 1581. Akbar went on to secure his borders and annex more and more territory. Not only Gujarat, Orissa and Rajasthan were subdued but Kashmir was also conquered. Sindh and Kabul were also under Akbar’s control by 1595. Fatehpur Sikri was having trouble with water supply and Salim, his eldest son was showing signs of restlessness about potential succession. Akbar then chose the security of the fort in Agra, abandoning Fatehpur Sikri. It was during this time that Akbar was busy with extending his empire into Deccan. The assault on Ahmadnagar became confused with the internal threat to Akbar from his son and resulted in a halfhearted attempt and least rewarding of Akbar’s conquests.
Akbar was also an exact contemporary of Elizabeth I of England but was the ruler of far greater number of people in India than the sparse population of England. The population of the subcontinent of India at the end of the sixteenth century is estimated at 140 million people with most of them living in the territory controlled by Akbar, between the Himalayas and the Deccan plateau. Compare this with the population of five million in England and 40 million in Western Europe. Akbar was indeed a true monarch and India with its enormous manpower quickly became rich again.
The benevolent monarch suspended all unjust taxation of non-Muslims. These taxes, called jizya had been collected ever since the Muslim rulers took control of India. Initially the Brahmins and some Buddhists were exempt but later Feroz Shah Tughlaq had made the taxes mandatory for all non-Muslims. Though handicapped with learning disabilities, Akbar appreciated art and music and honored artists, whoever they were. Miniature paintings from his era are considered to be masterpieces and the legendary musician Tansen was his royal singer in his court. Akbar’s reign also began an unprecedented period of political stability in India. A crafty and intelligent minister Birbal is the subject of much folklore.
The emperor’s waning years were mired in sadness. His own son, Prince Salim turned against him. In the year 1600, when Akbar was away, Salim attempted to seize Agra. The father and son reconciled but Salim again declared himself emperor in 1602. Salim murdered the trusted memorialist of Akbar, Abu’l-fazl, when he was sent to Salim to broker a truce between father and son. Akbar finally agreed to have Salim as his successor. However when Akbar died in 1605, perhaps form grief, the question of succession was far from settled. Salim’s son Khusrau was also vying for the throne, supported by the Delhi nobles. The erstwhile history of Muslim rulers with their tendency towards fratricide and patricide was again upon the Mughals.
The filial piety seen for two generations of Mughals would be forgotten and replaced by routine violence prior to each succession. The internal strife, as a result, would be a larger threat to Mughal rule than any external pressure.

Saga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow, King of the Maquas (Mohawks)


With the rediscovery and translation of Indian literature by European scholars in the 19th century, it was not just the religion and philosophy of Buddhism that came to light, but also its many legendary histories and biographies. Amongst this class of literature, one name that came to be noticed was that of Asoka, a good king who was supposed to have ruled India in the distant past. Stories about this king, similar in outline but differing greatly in details, were found in the Divyavadana, the Asokavadana, the Mahavamsa and several other works. They told of an exceptionally cruel and ruthless prince who had many of his brothers killed in order to seize the throne, who was dramatically converted to Buddhism and who ruled wisely and justly for the rest of his life. None of these stories were taken seriously -- after all many pre-modern cultures had legends about "too good to be true" kings who had ruled righteously in the past and who, people hoped, would rule again soon. Most of these legends had their origins more in popular longing to be rid of the despotic and uncaring kings than in any historical fact. And the numerous stories about Asoka were assumed to be the same.
But in 1837, James Prinsep succeeded in deciphering an ancient inscription on a large stone pillar in Delhi. Several other pillars and rocks with similar inscriptions had been known for some time and had attracted the curiosity of scholars. Prinsep's inscription proved to be a series of edicts issued by a king calling himself "Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi." In the following decades, more and more edicts by this same king were discovered and with increasingly accurate decipherment of their language, a more complete picture of this man and his deeds began to emerge. Gradually, it dawned on scholars that the King Piyadasi of the edicts might be the King Asoka so often praised in Buddhist legends. However, it was not until 1915, when another edict actually mentioning the name Asoka was discovered, that the identification was confirmed. Having been forgotten for nearly 700 years, one of the greatest men in history became known to the world once again.
Asoka's edicts are mainly concerned with the reforms he instituted and the moral principles he recommended in his attempt to create a just and humane society. As such, they give us little information about his life, the details of which have to be culled from other sources. Although the exact dates of Asoka's life are a matter of dispute among scholars, he was born in about 304 B.C. and became the third king of the Mauryan dynasty after the death of his father, Bindusara. His given name was Asoka but he assumed the title Devanampiya Piyadasi which means "Beloved-of-the-Gods, He Who Looks On With Affection." There seems to have been a two-year war of succession during which at least one of Asoka's brothers was killed. In 262 B.C., eight years after his coronation, Asoka's armies attacked and conquered Kalinga, a country that roughly corresponds to the modern state of Orissa. The loss of life caused by battle, reprisals, deportations and the turmoil that always exists in the aftermath of war so horrified Asoka that it brought about a complete change in his personality. It seems that Asoka had been calling himself a Buddhist for at least two years prior to the Kalinga war, but his commitment to Buddhism was only lukewarm and perhaps had a political motive behind it. But after the war Asoka dedicated the rest of his life trying to apply Buddhist principles to the administration of his vast empire. He had a crucial part to play in helping Buddhism to spread both throughout India and abroad, and probably built the first major Buddhist monuments. Asoka died in 232 B.C. in the thirty-eighth year of his reign.